Houses near wetlands fought

MALTBY – About 80 residents in this rural area east of Highway 522 near the Snohomish County line are fighting a proposed 46-home development at the headwaters of a conservation area.

Quinn’s Crossing would be built on a 114-acre parcel directly north of the 664-acre Paradise Valley Conservation Area, purchased by the county in 2000 for more than $1.9 million.

Niki Desautels / The Her

Laura Hartman (left), Connie Wright (center) and Gail Beatty, who oppose a proposed 46-home development, walk along Siler Road near Echo Lake on Sunday.

The wetlands on the site form the headwaters of several small streams that run through the conservation area and in turn become Bear Creek, a salmon-bearing stream that empties into Lake Washington.

The new homes, like the others in the area, would use septic tanks. The aquifer that feeds the wetlands on the property also is the source of drinking water for nearby residents on wells and for the Cross Valley Water District, residents said.

“That has not been developed for a reason: It’s a wetland,” said Gail Beatty, who lives about a quarter-mile from the property.

The single-family homes would be built in three clusters on the dry parts of the property, according to a map of the project. Of the 114 acres, 71 acres drain toward the conservation area, and only 16 of those will be developed, said Michael Huey, project manager for Yarrow Bay Development of Kirkland. Thirty acres would be developed into lots averaging slightly more than half an acre each, he said.

Only four homes would abut the conservation area, and a 50-foot buffer would be in effect there, Huey said.

Consultants on water quality, hydrology and fish biology hired by the developer concluded there would be little or no effect on the environment, he said. The fish biologist found no fish on the site and concluded that if there were, they still would not be affected, Huey said.

Bear Creek, however, was identified as a salmon-bearing stream when the county purchased the Paradise Valley Conservation Area in 2000. Of the $1.9 million, $1 million came from Snohomish County’s Conservation Futures fund, $645,000 from the governor’s Salmon Recovery Funding Board, $159,000 from King County and another $160,000 from Snohomish County.

Currently there is no public access to the site, but the county envisions interpretive trails there, according to its Web site.

County officials could not be reached for comment.

Residents also hired a fish biologist and a hydrologist to look at the site. That fish biologist called the area “a recipe for perfect fish habitat,” resident Laura Hartman said.

“The place is full of beavers and fish,” Hartman said.

The hydrologist and fish biologist both concluded the new homes’ septic tanks could add nutrients to the water that could disrupt the balance of the ecosystem, she said.

Their testimony, Hartman said, helped convince county hearing examiner Ed Good to grant the residents a reconsideration after their initial appeal of the project was denied. The next hearing is scheduled for May 10.

The septic tanks could pose a threat to the drinking water because the aquifer is so close to the surface, residents say.

The Cross Valley Water District hired a consultant to test the potential effect of septic tanks on the drinking water, and it was found to be minimal, district manager Gary Hajek said. The Snohomish Health District also signed off on the property as an acceptable location for septic tanks, Huey said Sunday.

The Health District has asked the hearing examiner to require that the project include a permanent monitoring well on the site, Hajek said. He said he has yet to receive a response to that request.

Reporter Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439 or

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